Smartphones

Is the BlackBerry Storm better than the iPhone for the enterprise?

As the first BlackBerry Smartphone on the market with a touch screen, how does the BlackBerry Storm fare from an enterprise perspective? Blogger and BlackBerry user Paul Mah speaks from his experience after using one for a week.

I recently got my hands on an evaluation unit of the BlackBerry Storm, which like the iPhone, features a large touch screen interface. Of course, detractors would probably scoff at its user interface as lacking compared to the iPhone's, regardless of its SurePress "clickable" screen.

With the strength of RIM's BlackBerry platform in the enterprise, however, I thought it would be interesting to evaluate its suitability in the enterprise. As it is, I went ahead and used the Storm as my personal phone for one full week.

So how would I rate the BlackBerry Storm in terms of its usability in the enterprise?

Absence of physical keyboard

The Bold spearheaded the appearance of BlackBerry Smartphones with faster than 2G connectivity options as well as a whole new bag of software features to boot. On the other hand, the Storm is really about the transition from a keypad-centric device to touch-screen hardware and, of course, the absence of a dedicated keypad to enable the larger display. As such, any appraisal of the Storm will unavoidably touch on these two areas.

It is apparent even after an initial twiddling of the Storm that RIM has invested painstaking efforts to tailor the BlackBerry OS 4.7 to enable a seamless touch-screen experience. Regardless of the number of tweaks though, the absence of a keypad means the inability to meaningfully use any application or device-specific shortcut key. And while well-designed, BlackBerry applications should not be crippled as a result; productivity for certain enterprise applications involving repetitive entries might decline.

Now, note that I am not saying that the lack of a keypad is all bad. Certainly, I really enjoyed the additional display space, as well as the ability to scroll around Google Maps or view documents in Cerience's RepliGo client. The tactile response enabled by the SurePress technology was also rather fun to use when it comes to clicking buttons or, in my case, setting my daily wakeup alarm.

With some practice, I was able to type rather quickly on the virtual keyboard too. However, after having used the Storm for one week, I can unequivocally say that I will not be able to type as fast on the Storm as on my Bold. Enterprise use for applications where there is a lot of user input would be unlikely to be satisfactory.

Application support

It is clear that RIM made many enhancements to the traditional user interface of the BlackBerry platform in order to leverage the Storm's touch display. The configuration parameters under the default Options application, for one, is double-spaced in the Storm to allow for easier selection with a finger.

On the other hand, applications will need to be specifically enabled for the Storm in order to take advantage of its ability to display the user interface in landscape mode. As it is, applications with many buttons or controls on a page might not fare as well and would likely need to be tweaked if not redesigned altogether.

As an example of what could possibly go awry, one of the Social Networking applications that I use, TwitterBerry, did not implement full support for the Storm. As such, I was not able to use the larger virtual keyboard that appears in landscape mode. In addition, scrolling down through the list of tweets from my friends also means drawing downward with my finger -- when the intuitive direction would be to drag my finger upward.

Overall build and usability

In my decidedly unscientific side-by-side comparison, the Storm is actually a tad shorter than the Bold as well as noticeably narrower. Battery life is comparable to the Bold despite the much larger and higher resolution of the display.

Overall, the Storm bears the traditional touch of ruggedness and heft of Smartphones from RIM. Under the hood, its usability is also similar, barring the issue of application support as noted earlier.

Conclusion

As a BlackBerry Smartphone, the Storm works just as well as any of the recent models from RIM. Its large display is clearly superior for tasks that involve little or no data entry. When it comes to applications that require more data entry though, the Storm can be a mixed bag. At a minimum, existing applications will need to be tweaked to work properly with the Storm.

For executives considering getting the Storm, I would recommend that they be given an opportunity to take one for a short spin first before making a final decision. Mileage will vary with individuals, though this advice is especially pertinent if they have used previous models with keypads.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

37 comments
nattusharan
nattusharan

Just the mention in the first para, where is the comparison with iphone. This compares more with Bold than iphone or to say, BERRY with ORANGES (not APPLE with BERRY ?!!!)

laman
laman

After a few paragraph of rubbish, what is the conclusion which is related to the heading?

patrick.m.murray
patrick.m.murray

If you title an article as a comparison of one thing to another, it might be a good idea to, oh I don't know, actually COMPARE the two items? Fairly worthless article.

jamurray
jamurray

Your article offered insight as to the suitability of the Storm for the enterprise, but you did not answer the question posed in the title. Is it better than the iPhone?

agoodwin
agoodwin

I received my Storm about a month after it's release from Verizon. I have several quams about it after I have loaded songs, spread sheets, and other work files to the phone. 1. You probably didn't see this in one week, but for the majority of my friends and users that have the Storm the applications/phone lock up frequently, which requires a hard reboot. 2. Answering an incoming call can take 2 to 3 presses on either the send key on the screen or the one on the phone itself causing frustration for you and the person calling you.... I initially ordered 15 Storms when they first came out for my users that are of the "ready for the next toy" mentality and I received 10 of them back in return for their old 8830's or Curves. For me, I can fiddle and get most things working smoothly after a while , but for users that want to trade in and go with the new and expect to able to use the phone like their old ones i am sorry to say that this is not the phone for you. Wait till the new toy comes out next month.

Thomas of Austin
Thomas of Austin

As the Storm has had several firmware upgrades/updates since its introduction, it is critical to know which firmware version is being tested. OS version is helpful but not as much a factor in my opinion as the firmware version.

paulmah
paulmah

It was the latest version when I got it a couple of weeks back (I checked it then). I'm returning the Storm tomorrow, but in the meantime.... here's the firmware details of the unit I evaluated: Firmware is v4.7.0.122 (Platform 4.0.0.153)

kenworld7
kenworld7

I have the BBS and I do not like it. I prefer the IPHONE touch is much easier to use. The IPHONE only need to improve their mail client and ability to send pictures. To stand out from the BBS.

agohige
agohige

I use the Storm and love it. I went into it after an 8830, but I did not carry any "attachment" to keyboard or no keyboard. I find that I have now gotten use to the finger positioning and knowing where the keys are. Looking for the blue glow under my big old thumbs. I am texting, emailing, using the VZ navigator all without a problem. Now I know some of my users cannot use this phone, they have no patience to learn, and very little dexterity (upper management) so I will just have to suffer, carrying all my email, docs, spreadsheets, (oh yeah movies, music) with me. Being able to video at job sites, take pictures that are usable, and have a good solid GPS for field marking. Not only that, but I do not have to put up with the lack of coverage AT&T has, nor do I have to put up with the rotten customer Service they have. Oh and for the iphone apps, most of them are things you can do on the internet for FREE. So for our company, Verizon and BB Storm is a solid go!

khenning
khenning

Our experience with the Storm has been marginal at best. Response to touch screen input is unpredictable, even for simply answering the phone, and even the "hardware" button is inconsistent, to the point that this phone is far more dangerous to use while driving than any other I've tried. (Yes, I know, but the reality is most people WILL sometimes take and make calls while driving.) We've had to replace a couple that had problems out of the box that Verizon couldn't fix, Verizon's Visual Voicemail doen't work on half of them, and while not a primary business function, the camera is a sick joke - press the shutter button and you and your subject have to be perfectly still for three seconds before the picture is actually taken. A business phone needs to be a usable, reliable PHONE first. This thing is just a very pretty toy right now.

richard
richard

I thought you were comparing the iPhone to the Storm, but you compared it mostly with the Bold? After spending 3 hours testing both the Storm and the iPhone in the stores, I bought the iPhone for my work phone. The Storm interface was just clunky compared to the iPhone, and did not work intuitively or consistently! And I really wanted the Storm. But after comparing my iPhone experiences with several clients Storm experiences, I am confident I made the right choice. The iPhone has integrated seamlessly into my work, while clients still report having problems just working with the Storm. Maybe BB will get it right next time?

dNig
dNig

"As a BlackBerry Smartphone, the Storm works just as well as any of the recent models from RIM. " You are joking right!? The Storm has been dogged with performance issues sine day 1. I've come to the conclusion that the hardware just isn't capable of handling this type of phone.

paulmah
paulmah

Some (admittedly a minority) of users appears to have fallen in love with the Storm. I made myself use it for a week to see if it is just a matter of getting used to the paradigm shift of a clickable display.

chris.leeworthy
chris.leeworthy

The title of this article "Is the BlackBerry Storm better than the iPhone for the enterprise?" would imply you were going to compare the two platforms for enterprise use. Yet, aside from a perfunctory comment about interface at the start of the article, it does no such thing. If anything it seems to be a lightweight comparison of the Blackberry Storm against the Blackberry Bold. The article does nothing to answer the question presented by it's title.

icecreman
icecreman

I couldn't have said it better myself. This article has nothing to do with the title.

TigerGeek
TigerGeek

I actually did a 2 month test of all blackberry devices, from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Had to chose the best Blackberry from each carrier with these criteria: 3G less than 6 months old coverage in DC metro area Once we turned in our finding and made our recommendations, they informed us that they were choosing AT&T as carrier and went with the bold. With that said, it was a 6 week test and all testers had each device for two weeks. It was unanimous among the testers that it took three or four days to get used to the paradigm shift from dedicated blackberry keyboards to the SurePress. For compatibility in the enterprise, the storm is a blackberry, connection in DC metro area was great. Iphone, not so much. Internationally, we went with AT&T and the bold as the GSM network was the best choice for our needs. The storm or the Bold is the choice if you have a BES server and want seamless flow of email, contacts and calendars. The real test for the devices and carriers is to make the device available on GSM networks and see what happens.

paulmah
paulmah

First off, let me apologize for the misleading title. As noted by several other readers, the comparison to the iPhone was non-existent beyond a simple mention. The original title of my piece (As evidenced by the default header in the comment section) is a more neutral "The BlackBerry Storm in the enterprise"). Let me check on having the misleading title changed back. Regards, Paul Mah.

sawaddell
sawaddell

I would have to agree with Chris. I started to read this article because I was curious about the difference between the iPhone and Storm and yet you provided nothing in comparison. Either rename the title of your article or redo your article so users are not wasting time.

possmann
possmann

I need to become a writer for the web. I feel somewhat cheated by reading this story... how about finishing it?

pyang
pyang

The article should have stuck to what its' title stated. In any case, it took me all of the 10 seconds I tried at the Verizon stand to know that its' the worst touch phone on the market.

andyclark
andyclark

We have had a couple here for a while. Those that don't travel internationally like it. Those that do have had terrible connection problems compared to the same places with Bolds and Curves. Given that, at the end of the day, connection is what a Blackberry is all about we do not recommend it to staff.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

I put emphasis on the 'for me' part. I'm not belittling anyone that can use the touch screen smart phones; as I've seen quite a few people that can fly on them. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I was using a friends' iPhone over the weekend to try and look up something (had left my AT&T Tilt in the car), and I ended up having her type it, as it kept shifting letters on me (for example, I wanted to type an 'o', and it spit out an 'i', wanted a 'd', got an 's'). I had the same experience with the Storm when testing it for work purposes. I try to be on the devices as little as possible, anyway, so it isn't a great loss. Still, if someone my team supported was considering a switch, I'd be remiss not to offer some warning; and at least suggest to them a lengthy testing period (more than a week...more like 15 business days).

tbostwick
tbostwick

Unlike most of the bevy of the touch-screen phones the providers are sending out, the Storm is easily modifiable, including the pressure and sensitivity when typing. the 'default' didn't work for me, but after a couple of changes, I can now type as fast or faster than on a keypad BB. Also, make sure you keep no more than 1-row of apps on the main screen, opening more taps the BB memory. Verizon and RIM have changed many things in the newer version of the Storm coming out this Fall/Winter and from the preview I saw - a winner above the iPhone by leaps and bounds!

paulmah
paulmah

I did play around with the configuration a bit. However, I was not able to tweak it to make any sense with my usage. Also, is your typing usage heavy? I send up to 1,000 SMS per month, as well as extensively PIN my wife and friends. While I could type at the Storm at a relatively steady clip, it was far from my usual speed. In the end, I found myself dreading having to use them. :( Perhaps you can give us some advice on this front? Regards, Paul Mah.

paulmah
paulmah

Ah, I was referring to communicating via the BlackBerry Messenger. The proprietary instant messenger application built into all BlackBerry. You can only PIN other BlackBerry smartphones. PIN works like am IM chat, and you can create chat groups or even transfer files across it. But unlike normal IM applications, does not consume more battery power (Think in terms of text messages, but without the per message charge) Its only good when you have friends on the BB as well. But once you get started, you can't do without it. :) Regards, Paul Mah.

Tariq.khan
Tariq.khan

Is Blackberry's Instant Messaging. Ever BB has a PIN #. It's RIM's way of tracking it on a BES.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...extensively PIN my wife and friends." In this case, what does 'PIN' mean? Googling it just results in the expected 'Personal Identification Number'. Thanks.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

If the opportunity presents itself to try out the phone again, I will make sure I look to change the settings to see if it is a better fit for my typing style.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...I can unequivocally say that I will not be able to type as fast on the Storm as my Bold." Glad it's not just me and my users. I absolutely hated it, and I only had to configure the devices.

tbostwick
tbostwick

The Storm has a huge amount of flexibility in the way it can be configured, including the way the typing is done, the pressure on the screen and sensitivity - I can now type faster than I did on my curve, and I have adjusted the Storm to actualy respond to 'touch' rahter than pressing down, which is more like the iphone tactic response. Plenty of sites offer common tweaks to the Storm, all of them work, and with AppWorld dumping apps out daily, including EverNote - I'll never see a tiny keypad again!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I may remember that if I ever get one inflicted on me. Right now my goal is to avoid being saddled with a corporate 'e-leash'. If such is mandated, I'll hold out for a unit with a physical keyboard.

jwymer
jwymer

I've been a Storm user since January and I can say that a week to get used to any device and it's particular quirks isn't even close to long enough.

agohige
agohige

This BB has been fantastic. Most people in our company has 8830's or Curve's. But I ordered the Storm. Love it. Texting, email, I have 2 complete movies on mine for travel; I take pictures, document data, use the tools. It is fantastic. Will everyone have this experience? No, of course not. Many hard core text fiends will find this system frustrating, Heavy email use could also get clumsy. But for wow factor, navigation, web, phone, text, multimedia, power point, it is great. I carry an ASUS eepc (1000HA) and my Storm, and I am set. I have matching skins (Decal Girl) so it looks cool too. At Biker events, it is the WOW that I get. iPhoney? you can keep it. AT&T is lame, the CSR?s are clueless, and their coverage just ain?t there. The Storm meets and exceeds all my needs. I have 4 email accounts on it, no trouble. Use it, rock it, it JAMS!

paulmah
paulmah

I've used at least five different BlackBerry models as my mobile device over the last few years. There was never an issue with "getting used to it" so I figured a week with the Storm would be more than adequate. I assumed you liked the Storm in the end? How long did it take to get used to it? Any advise on that? Regards, Paul Mah.

tbostwick
tbostwick

About 2 weeks - from a keypad based phone. I have moved all my apps and such into sensiible folders, and only keep what I use most on the main menu. For the home screen, I keep the 4 highest used apps - usually a browser, Evernote, email and SMS. I've used an iPhone frequently in the past, so I'm used to the feeling of size (close to the same size) - the difference is pushing and then lifting the fingers up from the keys and I loaded a typespeed app, and can bang in around 80 wps on the Storm (normally I type around 120 wps). Look up the changes to hover, sensitivity and others on crackberry's website. Keep in mind that the Storm WILL be replaced this Fall/ and include WiFi and @ 5+MP camera. I've also heard the screen-type is changed as well, but the wraps are tight on that as well. Overall, I put the Storm an easy 2nd behind the iPhone. Loaded over 30 "free" apps from BB's AppWorld - including Pandora, Bloomberg, CNN, WeatherBug, Google Search, Facebook, Evernote, Poynt, Vigo and others - all work great no issues. I also can sync with my Google calendar and email accounts, which makes adding dates VERY easy to do - It's also sync'd with my main "home" Thunderbird email account.

ian.lockwood
ian.lockwood

Did you manage to modify your storm so the screen worked like a proper touch screen like on the latest Nokia or did it still have to click the screen? If so how?